Strengthen leadership skills with improved communication skills

Jason VanderPal, Rotary Club of New Berlin, New Berlin RotaryImproving your communication skills can improve your leaderships skills as well, according to Jason VanderPal. VanderPal a sales trainer with a a very successful sales career under his belt, discussed this during a recent meeting of Rotary Club of New Berlin. VanderPal walked us through his formative years with a major retailer out west.

Employed at Guitar Center in California for several years, VanderPal was asked to give a speech during the firm’s 2007 national conference. That presentation was so well received, he was offered the manager’s position at Guitar Center’s Hollywood location – their flagship store. “I have a 20-minute speech to thank for that,” he says.

Interested in enhancing his public speaking skills, VanderPal joined Toastmasters, then enrolled in an intense, three-day workshop created by renowned public speaking trainer Bill Gove. VanderPal shared some important tips from that training.

1. Make a point, then tell a story. Segue into your story by saying, “Let me give you an example.” Examples and stories help audience members understand your point.

2. Think funny. Incorporate a joke if you can. If not, relay an anecdote from life. “Funny things happen everyday,” VanderPal says.

3. Avoid being a “teacher.” Don’t bury your audience (or customer) in features and details. “You don’t get paid to teach,” VanderPal says. “You get paid to entertain.” Make your presentation lively and interesting.

4. Make sure you rehearse. You become more comfortable with your material, which improves your delivery and helps you overcome any glitch during the presentation.

VanderPal left Guitar Center in 2011. His career to that point had been, by any measure, a success: being named one of top five salespeople in the nation and earning an Outstanding Innovation award for his approach to retail sales. A Wisconsin native, VanderPal, who had been involved with the ministry while in California, recently accepted the role of Executive Pastor at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, Wis. It was “too good of an offer to pass up, ” he says.

Meantime, VanerPal continues to speak, and offers sales training to retail organizations through his program, Rock n’ Roll Retail.

For related reading, see “Effective communication skills are critical in today’s economy” and “Resolve to improve your communication skills.”

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Tell your story to connect with your audience

Have you ever attended a presentation that put you to sleep? (Maybe one of your presentations had that effect!) Or, how about the presentation that all but slipped your mind by the following day?

A presentation can fail for a number of reasons. One cause is a lack of stories. Good stories are powerful tools, noted Rob Biesenbach during this month’s Milwaukee PRSA meeting.

Rob BiesenbachBiesenbach, who owns Rob Biesenbach LLC, kicked off his presentation with a few stories of his own. A long-time Chicago resident, Biesenbach has “commuted” to Milwaukee at least 150 times over the years. He has also traveled around Wisconsin. He learned to ski in the state, observed the infamous goats atop Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, and got married in Lake Geneva.

As a result, we in the audience developed a connection to Biesenbach. Which is one of his points. “Story telling is one of the most powerful forms of communication,” Biesenbach says. “It breaks down barriers.”

Our brains are naturally receptive to stories, Biesenbach says. Research has shown that 63% of an audience will remember stories told during a presentation, while only 5% will recall the stats that were provided.

Stories work because they:

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Important reminders of telephone etiquette

how to speak clearly by phone, phone etiquette tips, telephone etiquetteSpeaking clearly is important all times. We accept that in business settings. We sometimes let our guard down, though, during private conversations. Of course, some of that is acceptable. After all, no one is perfect and no one expects perfection from others.

There is a fine line between casual and sloppy conversation. If you want to be–and remain–a polished speaker, you should practice the fundamentals in every instance. Some people think they can switch on the communication skills when needed (say, for a business presentation). That’s not as simple as it seems. Speaking clearly when necessary becomes easier when you commit to speaking clearly all the time.

Consider your phone or Skype calls, social gatherings, and other private events. Every time you open your mouth to say something, use the opportunity to practice what you’ve been taught. Eventually the principles become second nature, and you’re speaking well in all circumstances.

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Public speaking tip: Provide your own intro

Public speaking training: Provide your own introduction.

Ensure a proper introduction by writing your intro. Too many speakers simply hand the host a thick bio or multi-page résumé. The person has to sift through all that material–on the spot–to get to the relevant information. Worse, the person reads all of it, wasting valuable time and boring your audience to tears. (I once suffered through a nearly 5-minute introduction!)

Write a brief intro that gets to the relevant facts. Keep to about 90 seconds, as you can say a lot in that amount of time. Mention your current position and firm, touch on the relevant history, and offer a theme or takeaway along with the title. By providing an intro, you get to properly set the stage for your presentation.

Provide your intro to the meeting host ahead of time so the person has time to review it. (Another hint: type in large font – 14 or 16 point – so the host doesn’t have any trouble reading your copy.)

Bottom line: Always provide your own intro.

For additional training, see “5 tips to keep your presentation on time” and “Presentation tip: Don’t let gaffes trip you up.”

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Writing tips 4: Refresher on fundamentals

writing tip, daily writing tip, writing classes, writing jobsA lot has been said and written about social media and its effects on our culture. I imagine someone could write fat book on the subject. (Perhaps someone already has!) As a writer, I am especially sensitive to how the written word is conveyed. One thing I can say for certain is that overall, writing on social media leaves a lot to be desired.

I don’t know why this is. It appears that most people feel they don’t need to write well. Others probably just don’t know they are making mistakes. Either way, their writing skills–or lack thereof–leave a lasting impression. And that impression is not necessarily a good one.

This is next in a series of blog posts designed to review some of the common writing errors. These are actual examples of poor writing that I have seen or received. Most were on Facebook, but others came to me in emails. Each offers errors in one or more areas:

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